Hey! Randy

Galatians 1:15-17

Posted by heyrandy on May 31, 2010

15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,

16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

17Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Paul begins the autobiographical section of the letter. This bit of biography is to attest to his apostolic credentials. To the modern reader it fills in some of the details of this fascinating man’s life.

Verse 15 is similar to the calling of Jeremiah. In Jer. 1:5 we read, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Both the calling of Paul and Jeremiah aver God’s decree of predestination. . We do not know how God calls men to Himself, but He does it. To God be the glory in all His works.

Paul attributes not only his calling, but his very existence to the will of God. God is the God of the details. Paul would write to the Ephesian church that God “works all things after the counsel of His own will.” Without this divine calling, Paul would have spent the rest of his life fighting the church. He would have lost, but one can only guess at the intensity of the battle.

Paul writes that he was called “when it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me….” The preposition used is important. Paul does not say “to” but “in” me. Prepositions are very weak words, but they carry a huge load. Prepositions often are the pivot points of a sentence. The meaning of a sentence can turn on the preposition used. Here is just such a case. “In” signifies an internal change. “To would signal an external change. Because Christ was revealed in Paul, there was an internal change that effected an external change. Paul’s orientation altered, and his actions followed. When you change the orientation of a car’s steering wheel, the direction of the car changes.

This is often call regeneration, the new birth. It can only come from God. Men do not–can not– do this by themselves. Men are wholly passive in the new birth process. It is ineffable. It is beyond human comprehension. It is a mystery only God understands. Paul alludes to this by saying that God called him “by His grace.” Men do not control the grace of God.

Paul tells us that he was called for a specific purpose: to preach the Gospel among the heathen. This is how the Galatians heard the Gospel. Their hearing and believing the Gospel is one of the effects of Paul’s conversion. Paul’s conversion and subsequent missionary journeys was the method God used to fulfill His eternal plan to call the Galatians to Himself. God’s plan is settled in eternity, but He uses means to bring it about in time. Paul was one such means.

Paul reiterates where he received the Gospel. In vs. 11-12 he tells us that he did not receive the Gospel from man but from Jesus Christ. In vs. 16b-17 he tells us the details of what he did do and did not do. He did not confer with “flesh and blood.” This is an odd way of saying that he did not speak with men about the meaning of the Gospel. We know that the Lord’s resurrected body is one of flesh and blood, glorified as it is; but Paul is not excluding Christ by using this odd expression. What he means is that he did not confer with any earthly man but received the essence of the Gospel directly from the divine source.

Paul also precludes the critics objection that he went to the apostles to be taught the Gospel. Verse 17 tells us that he did not go to Jerusalem to the apostles but to Arabia then to Damascus. Why Arabia? What was in Arabia? Where in Arabia? How long did he stay in Arabia? These are interesting questions, but there are no answers. There is no further information about them.

Paul tells us that he left Arabia and returned to Damascus. This is the city to which he was going when the Lord intervened into his life. Damascus was not a safe place for Paul. His former allies are now his enemies. They do not overlook betrayal. Damascus would become too hot for him. He would flee, taking the Gospel with him.

Homework: read the account of Paul’s conversion and his two retelling of it in the book of Acts. Put all the pieces together to come up with a more full biography of the apostle.


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